Sunday, February 03, 2008

Extremist Dogma

Who is Rabbanit Bruria Keren? And why is no one paying attention to her?

Bruria Keren is a disturbed woman. She is the promoter of the latest fashion trend in women’s clothing… at least if your choice in fashion follows that of the Taliban. Woman who follow Rabbanit Keren wear what can only be described as a Burka. I’ve written about this before. The Rabbanit in question lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh. (Why am I not suprised?!)

Miriam Shaviv has written an insightful article on the phenomenon of increasing levels of Tznius being promoted by some Rabbanim in Klal Yisroel and the bizzare behavior this has led to. And I couldn’t agree with her more. Rabbanit Bruria Keren is a symptom of of that malaise

I might normally ignore Rabbanit Keren and her 100 or so followers - who go to such extremes in the clothing they wear. Her 'Chasidim' have chosen to wear a Burka type outfit as an expression of the ultimate in Tznius. But it is not. Wearing a Burka is considered abnormal even by the most Charedi of Rabbanim. A Charedi rabbinic court even granted a divorce and custody of his 10 children to a man whose wife had such a distorted understanding of Erva and Tznius.

Ms. Shaviv believes as I do that the cause of such behavior can be directly attributed to the ever increasing focus on Tznius in woman’s clothing in the Charedi world especially in Israel. But unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Israel does not stay in Israel. It is instead embraced by much of the right wing here in the west.

The latest example of that happened less than 2 weeks ago in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where a boycott of a wig shop was called by the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chaim Berlin. He considerd pictures of women's faces wearing those wigs in the front window dispaly provocative! These photos hardly violate the Laws of Erva or Tznius. But are nonetheless treated worthy of a boycott.

Charedi women are increasingly being indoctrinated to cover more and more of their bodies that are not required to be covered by Halacha. They are being told to refrain from any apparel that might in even the remotest way be attracting to men. Is there real wonder why some women have gravitated to extremes like wearing a Burka? It is just a logical extension of the message they get about Tznius and Erva.

Apparently young Charedi women are taught that men by their very nature see all women as sexual objects. While I do believe that a man is more easily aroused by the visual than a woman might be, is it fair to indoctrinate our daughters that men are aroused by women who swing their arms while they walk?! That is what a A CD recording by a top rabbi from Lakewood says - as pointed out in Ms. Shaviv’s article.

Of course there are some men who might have such fetishes. But that’s what they are: fetishes. A fetish is an abnormal erotic association. The key word here is abnormal. Normal men will not be aroused so easily. Neither the Torah nor the Sages legislated Jewish law for the masses that only apply to abnormal people. But that doesn’t stop some current rabbis from trying.

If one takes extreme teachings of modesty to their logical conclusion… then why not Burkas?!

This is but another instance of the kind of extremist dogma that passes for education in some circles. Shouldn’t the advent of Jewish women wearing Burkas be a signal to those entrusted with educating our children that there is such a thing as going too far …and that they ought to re-think their educational policies? Do they really want Bruria Kerens popping up all over the Torah world? Because if they do, then they have got a pretty good start in Ramat Bet Shemesh.